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Monday, December 07, 2009
To say Andy Lane, Executive Director of the Lipscomb University National Bison Club, is excited about the 2009-2010 school year would be an understatement.
In just five months the newly formed National Bison Club has already surpassed the best year ever in the club's 31 year history.
"Obviously we are excited about the growth of the National Bison Club, but more importantly we are thankful for the support,” said Lane who in April was appointed Executive Director of the NBC. “It has been such a blessing to see each day fans, alumni, lettermen and parents get connected or reconnected with our athletic program. We are really excited about those individuals who have become fans of our student-athletes and have joined the NBC having no earlier association with Lipscomb.”
The next goal is to surpass the all-time one year membership total of 362 set in 1991.
" While the dollar amount is great we are really focusing on the number of people that we can encourage to join us and be on the team to support our student-athletes and coaches,” said Lane, in his 22nd year with the Lipscomb athletics program. “I honestly feel like in this first year we can get 500 members, which would be great. With everyone's help across the country and obviously locally we can do this to show our student-athletes how much we are behind them as they represent us on the field or court.”
Another person excited about the growth of the National Bison Club is first year Director of Athletics, Philip Hutcheson.
“I had high expectations for the National Bison Club, but it has been better than I had hoped especially in terms of the number of new people that we have involved with it,” said Hutcheson. “We had two goals for this year. We had a money raised, revenue goal and we also had a membership goal. We have already beaten the record for 31 years now for the most money raised in a year. We have not quite passed the high for membership, but I anticipate we will do that in the next month or two.”
Hutcheson also sees the National Bison Club as a way to keep members informed of everything that is happening on campus, not only athletically, but socially and academically.
“Believe me, we are happy for the money we have raised,” said Hutcheson. “We are appreciative and glad of it. But by virtue of people getting involved with the National Bison Club it tells us they are interested in how our teams are doing, how our athletes are progressing and what is happening on campus. It really gives us permission in a sense to let them know about everything that is going on here.
“They have told us they are interested by their involvement. We can communicate better with them, communicate more often with them, stories that inspire them and give them a greater appreciation for Lipscomb information they may not have had before.”
Another part of the Bison Club's restructuring has been to try and reach out beyond Middle Tennessee, resulting in the word National being added as a part of the organizations new name.
"Probably one of the things we are most excited about is the support we have received from those living in other States,” said Lane. “To date we have 16 states represented in the NBC and our goal is to have at least one representative from each state. Lipscomb is really about Community and I believe we have supporters from all over the United States that will want to join the NBC once they see the excitement that is building to support our student-athletes."
Hutcheson also wants to attract fans to the program that have no connection with Lipscomb from an academic or athletic standpoint.
“I am convinced there are many people in here in Nashville who have no ties whatsoever with Lipscomb,” said Hutcheson. “But they appreciate the type of athlete we have here and they appreciate what we are trying to do here as a university.
“While they may not have a Lipscomb degree they appreciate what Lipscomb stands for. That is the other group we are really trying to work to connect with: those who appreciate students trying to grow in the classroom, on the field or the court, in community relations and in character and spiritually. There are people out there waiting just to be told about that.”
Lane says another of the National Bison Club's programs that is being revamped in this first year is the NBC Junior Bison Club.
"We have been working hard putting together a new Junior Bison Club for ages 12 and under,” said Lane. “We feel like the direction we need to go for the future is having children involved. The entire theme for our NBC is Be a Bison for Life, so it is important to get them started early cheering for Lipscomb.
“Last year we started having informal events for the younger fans during our basketball games when we would lower the goals after games to allow children to come down on the court to shoot and play. This year we are going to repeat many of the things that were successful and add to them with a more structured program.”
A Junior Bison Kids Zone has been unveiled this season where children can visit. It will also offer a halftime hospitality area for the children.
“We want to expand our Kids Zone to some of our other sports as we grow,” said Lane. “We feel like there is no better place for Junior Bison Club members to come watch a game. We have some outstanding student-athletes that we want the young ones to be around, get to know and cheer for as they compete for Lipscomb.”
Another exciting program that has evolved in the first year of the National Bison Club is the BFF (Bison Fans Forever) Women’s Club. This group is comprised of women who love Lipscomb, love Sports and love having a positive impact on Lipscomb students. In the initial meeting nearly 80 women gathered to launch the program that is being directed by Vera Hutcheson and Janene Ezell.
“We are so excited about the formation of the BFF Women’s Club,” Lane said. “I am convinced this group is going to do some incredible things as part of the National Bison Club that will benefit our student-athletes greatly over the next few years.”
Another addition to the National Bison Club has been the hiring of Rhonda Lehmer as Administrative Assistant for the NBC. Lehmer has been a fixture on the Lipscomb campus for the past several years after having spent 16 years as Business Manager and CFO for Brumfield-Gallagher Advertising Agency.
For the National Bison Club the next step for growth is the evolution of Chapters outside of Nashville.
"We want to continue to grow the NBC across the nation and do different events to bring together supporters of Lipscomb athletics,” said Lane. “We feel like we have groups of fans in St. Louis, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Orlando and other cities that would like to form chapters. All it takes is a group of people who love Lipscomb athletics and want to come together to show their support for our student-athletes.”
Lane understands this first year has been about laying the foundation for future growth of the National Bison Club.
"We have worked hard this year in getting things organized and trying to reach out to our alumni and fans,” said Lane. “We have spent a lot of time researching the location our former athletes and fans and trying to reach out to them.
“We have made progress, but we know there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. In April we started things off with a tremendous event with the Don Meyer Evening of Excellence and the excitement has been building ever since. I have been here a long time and dreamed we could have the kind of support that is being shown by our fans and alumni. Lipscomb has always been about community and it is showing from the supporters we have joining the team.”
While the NBC has reached new heights Lane continues to look for new members.
"While we are so thankful for those who have joined, I spend a lot of my day thinking about who we hope will join to support our student-athletes,” said Lane. “I believe if we can continue to get the word out that there are so many more lettermen, parents, grandparents, alumni and fans that will join the NBC.
“The biggest thrill for me would be for someone reading this article to pick up the phone and call or e-mail me and say they want to join the National Bison Club, especially if they live in Hawaii, Alaska, or another state far outside of Tennessee. We love it that we have representation from as far away as California and Florida and really believe it truly is a great time to be a Bison."